By Elise Franco
Mahoning Valley residents already using the Mill Creek MetroParks Bikeway are enthusiastic about a proposed trail expansion.
Dozens of people filed into the MetroParks Farm in Canfield for an informational forum on the bike- path expansion.
Justin Rogers, MetroParks planning manager and landscape architect, said the project will be the final phase of the bikeway — phases one and two were constructed in 2000 and 2001 and run 11 miles from County Line Road in Weathersfield Township to Western Reserve Road in Canfield.
The proposed expansion would take the path an additional 6.25 miles from Western Reserve, parallel to Washingtonville Road, which runs through Green Township and the village of Washingtonville in Columbiana County.
Linda Kostka, marketing and development director, said the forum’s purpose was to inform people about the park’s plan and listen to their feedback.
“We were hoping to find out that this is really something people want to see us complete,” she said. “From what I’ve heard already, people are very excited to see this finished because it gives them a direct route from Ashtabula to the Ohio River.”
Linda Stuler of Canfield said she uses the trail constantly and has done so since it was constructed.
“I’ve been waiting for the expansion to the south,” she said. “It needs to happen. ... People will enjoy it.”
Mike Hood of Mineral Ridge said he’s also been an avid trail-user over the past 12 years.
“It’s the safest place to ride a bicycle, so this expansion is awesome,” he said. “People are definitely happy about it. I know I am.”
Steve Avery, operations director, said the expansion’s construction will cost about $3.5 million, and he expects the park will apply for grants to cover most of the expense.
But before construction on the bikeway can begin, several things must happen, including the acquisition of land from about a dozen private-property owners and designing and engineering the path.
Avery said the right-of-way plan and acquisitions portion of the project costs about $364,000 and is paid for through a federal transportation grant that was earmarked several years ago by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
Avery said park officials sent invitations to those private-property owners, asking them to attend Thursday’s forum.
Rogers said the property owners did attend the forum but did not speak directly with MetroParks officials.
He said park staff spoke previously with the property owners on an individual basis.
“I honestly think it’s a mixed bag, and you have people on both ends,” he said. “There are those who are in favor and those who are not for various reasons.”